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The Tribal Path -- A Better Alternative?

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The Tribal Path -- A Better Alternative?

by Ken Guest, 'RAM' Seeger and Lucy Morgan Edwards

Download the full article: The Tribal Path -- A Better Alternative?

The current internationally agreed strategy for Afghanistan is unlikely to work as it has been based on flawed assumptions or hopes.

What Afghanistan really needs is a central government with a light but effective footprint, empowered tribal leaders, and a small, professional, well-trained army and police force in support of tribal security forces, provided by and controlled by the tribes. If these could be established and put into effect, they could revolutionise the situation in Afghanistan.

An independent and authoritative study is urgently needed to establish the viability of the tribal path and, more importantly perhaps, how to get on it and follow it successfully.

Download the full article: The Tribal Path -- A Better Alternative?

Ken Guest is a former Royal Marine and photo-journalist. He is currently working in Kabul and has now been closely involved with Afghanistan for 29 years. During their struggle against the Soviets he probably spent more time inside Afghanistan, living and working with the Mujahedin, than any other Western witness to that conflict. A sizable part of this time was with Jalalludin Haqanni, who now runs the Taliban campaign on the Eastern border. He has also drunk tea and discussed religion with Osama bin Laden. As a result of that past, he has a first hand knowledge of not just how the ordinary Afghan thinks, but how the Taliban and Al Qaeda think and act. Ken has written, contributed to and illustrated several books eg Flashpoint! and British Battles.

'RAM' Seeger is a former Royal Marine who left the corps in 1976 after commanding the Special Boat Service. He won a Military Cross with 40 Commando during the Borneo confrontation, was an instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and attended the Army staff college at Camberley. After leaving the Corps he set up a Special Force for the Sultan of Oman and then became a security consultant. During the early 1980s he made a number of trips into occupied Afghanistan to give training and help to the Mujahedin. Most of these were to the Panshir valley and for the benefit of the followers of Ahmed Shah Massoud. After this he did an MA degree in War Studies at King's College London. In 2001 he lobbied for Western support of Abdul Hak, along with Ken Guest and another friend and colleague -- Sir John Gunston.

Lucy Morgan Edwards first worked in Afghanistan running urban development projects in Kandahar and Herat. After spending five years there as a journalist and election monitor she became political advisor to Francesc Vendrell, the EU Special Representative. She is currently writing a book on Abdul Haq, and like Ken and RAM, feels that the West missed a great opportunity by not backing him in 2001. She is married to the Director of Law for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

About the Author(s)


The above comment is not mine. There must be some other Maxwell here!! :-) Just so we do not get us confused.

Maxwell (not verified)

Mon, 03/15/2010 - 10:48am

One of the critical things missing in this debate as far as I could tell, is that no one has harped on the diversity of the Afghan people.

You want to know one reason why TETs wouldn't work in the south? Because tribal affiliations are less central to the Pashtuns there. RC South has a greater capacity for central government than RC East. Look at the terrain. Less mountains, easier communication, easier travel. Most of the provinces grow the same crops.

Then look at RC East and see why Tribal Engagement might stand a better chance: Dense mountains. Poor travel. Besides Nangarhar and Kabul, what provinces have a large investment in trade? Why not? In every province, the local economy is diverse as to what crops are grown, and what industry is pivotal to success. In Nurestan alone, villages a days walk from each other don't speak the same language. Your average woman hasn't walked much farther than about 2 hours a day in her whole life.

It isn't even a matter of setting one tribe up against another. It's a matter of understanding who lives there at all.

And, without understanding the Human Terrain of any given area will lead to incomplete IPB and get a lot more soldiers killed. Also, lowering our troop levels right now, and keeping them on FOBs is not a good solution. It did not work in the past. It made a lot of locals angry. And every year since invasion we've seen an escalation in violence. In part due to the lack of Friendly engagement of locals, and also due Enemy engagement of the locals. The enemy gives money to your local can earn for being a spotter for a mortar, planting an IED. The enemy knows who your local is and threatens to kill him if he doesn't comply. The enemy engages in not just tribes, not just villages, but religion as well.

Until we find ways to meet the people like the enemy does, or deny the enemy the capabilities that we don't have, we will lose this asymmetric fight.

kdog101 (not verified)

Sat, 03/13/2010 - 4:34pm

While I am interested to see how the tribal engagement goes, at the end of the day it is another strategy that we tie to the objective where the outcome is in the hands of the Afghan people. I can believe there are many factors why or why not such a strategy may or may not work, and I hope we figure them out, but above all this, I hope we come to a realization that having objectives where the outcomes are not in our control are not a good idea.

From the Powell doctrine:
Do we have a clear attainable objective?

Since our objective is in a large part in control of the Afghan people, I would answer no to this question.

Outlaw 7 (not verified)

Sat, 03/13/2010 - 2:09pm

Let's see where the tribal engagement model goes instead of debating it to death.

"We are known by what we do, not by what we say we are going to do."

kdog101 (not verified)

Fri, 03/12/2010 - 4:28pm

I think our plans are way too complicated. At the very beginning of this conflict when our plan was simple, we were very successful. Our military had a clear objective, which was to help tribes overthrow the Taliban, and destroy Al Queda bases. I think we have to get back to some kind of simple strategy. To do this we must get rid of many ideas and tactics that are too complicated. If it is not simple do not do it. If we can not operate under such a strategy, then I don't think it is worth it. I think our soldiers, myself included, deserve something better.

Here are some ideas:

Keep out of the daily affairs of the population as much as possible.
Send most of our soldiers home.
Stop placing our soldiers in harms way. Stop doing population protection. Minimize convoys as much as possible.
Stop going after small targets.
Let CIA, special forces, specialized troops, diplomats handle most of the population contact.
Leave complicated specific terror targets to CIA and special forces.

Work through our contacts and find good groups of people that are fighting for peace and give them support.
Allow these groups to win control of their regions.
Tolerate the rest, as long as they do not threaten these groups.
Gradually lessen our contact and leave the region.

This strategy is simple. It correctly transfers the complexity to the native people. It promotes good over bad. The native people are in control as it should be.

Ian, what is your position on supporting some tribes over others? I am not a big fan of putting brief cases of cash and US soldiers into the mix, but I do think giving the "good people" a means to defend themselves, and possibly bring peace to the surrounding regions is a good thing. So I am just curious what your position is as far as giving aid to tribes. In this conflict I would rather choose a side based on certain principles, and promote them, than just try to keep to a strict neutral policy. Certainly there is risk to this, but if the alternative is that the "good people" get slaughtered or put under harsh rule, I would at least want to help them avoid this.

Also I am not completely against a central government in Afghanistan. I recognize at this point it would probably be a bad idea to shun the existing government in Kabul, but I think that we should not be promoting it as a control over the entire country of Afghanistan. I think local regions should be free to engage Kabul government and work out some agreement of sovereignty with them. If they are peaceful people I support their independence.


Fri, 03/12/2010 - 4:02pm


Great and thanks...I'll go ahead and keep you on that list...if you don't mind.



Joe (not verified)

Thu, 03/11/2010 - 6:47pm


Thank you for presenting a challenge to the tribal engagement idea. Unfortunately it took the Taliban to resolve the tribal warfare after the Soviets pulled out. This is most likely a road to failure, but it provides an exit plan, so we can blame the subsequent social explosion on something other than our tribal engagement. I predict that we'll do this in a clumsy manner and over time it will result in thousands of Afghans getting killed. The Brits had a long history of doing this in their colonies, and usually the tribe/ethnic group they supported were bounced upon after the Brits left. There is a long history of examples that tell us we should think twice, three times and more on why we should reconsider.

Outlaw 7 (not verified)

Thu, 03/11/2010 - 2:39pm

Just some thoughts;

"We are fixated on technology and technological success, and we have no sustained or systematic approach to field-based social understanding of our adversaries' motivation, intent, will, and the dreams that drive their strategic vision, however strange those dreams and vision may seem to us."

Ian (not verified)

Thu, 03/04/2010 - 8:33am

With all due respect to the backgrounds of these authors, as well as the authors of other "tribe-and-only-tribe" pamphlets, do you not realize that the Soviets attempted this EXACT approach? See chapter 3, I believe, of Guistozzi's new book to read a succinct review of how this approach empowered locals to become warlords--the same warlords who later shredded the country into the tatters it now is.

Also, what about the 60% of the country that is not "tribal"?

I'd like to follow up on Ian's comment. This:

"An independent and authoritative study is urgently needed to establish the viability of the tribal path and, more importantly perhaps, how to get on it and follow it successfully."

Has already been done. Both within the Army, in the form of the Human Terrain System, and outside the Army, namely Masood Karokhail and Susan Schmeidle's studies for the tribal liasiaon office, are UNIVERSAL in saying a tribes-first policy is only effective in a geographically very limited area. In other places, even where there are tribes of Pashtuns, there is ample evidence - particularly from recently failed attempts to do so - that a "tribal path" just won't work.

I'm sympathetic to their concerns, especially considering how much Abdul Haq offered promise. But this paper is demonstrating what can only be called ignorance of the place. There HAVE been studies. And they're all in agreement: tribal engagement = bad idea except for three or four provinces in the east.

kdog101 (not verified)

Thu, 03/04/2010 - 2:12pm

Can we implement this strategy in the United States? I think our central government has gotten too big and expensive, and the tea party insurgency is growing.

I like to think it is a universal principle that people want to have control over their own lives. I believe a strategy that empowers this principle anywhere in the world is a good one. So whether it is communism, fascism, religious extremism, or dare I put NATO in the same sentence, they are all forces that threaten this principle. Granted NATO has good intentions and I believe they are trying to install a government that is meant to protect this principle, but there are problems with this. One being that they are installing a government without checks and balances. Another being they are promoting this government through force.

I have my doubts about the comments Ian and Joshua Foust have made. I welcome a discussion on this.

First to Ian's statement that the Soviets attempted this EXACT approach. I thought it was the Soviets who were trying to control the region, and it was the United States that was actually promoting the fight against Soviet control. At least from my perspective it does not seem to be the same at all, and it seemed as if it was the United States that was at least employing the same strategy of empowering the locals. So you could say that approach was successful.

I would also say that after a successful strategy that empowered the Northern Alliance and some of the Pashtun tribes in kicking out the Taliban, NATO immediately began working on a centralized government. That centralized government has been in power for many years, with questionable practices. We have punished the farmers who grow opium. We continue to punish the people who buy and sell the opium. Why wouldn't the people resent us for this?

Also when looking at past conflicts where we had opportunity to empower the locals I would say it has gone OK. I think our military had many reservations about allowing Iraqis to have weapons. They eventually relented and allowed them to have one weapon each or per household. Also I believe we were reluctant to support the Sunni awakening, sons of Iraq movement, which eventually seemed to be part of the turning point.

I think if we are helping people that are truly resentful of the Taliban, and we form a relationship with them, where we get them weapons to defend themselves, they will.


I'll repeat myself: we have recent examples of empowering the tribes failing miserably. In the south, where people want to do it again. In every case - I can think of four separate initiatives off the top of my head - the "militias" either committed eggregious human rights abuses or outright absconded to join the Taliban and sell off their weapons.

Even in 2001, as Tora Bora indicated, relying on charismatic men - and we cannot empower tribes without empowering charismatic tribal leaders (they won't allow us to dictate activities to them) - is at best an unreliable method to fight the war.

So we can try to draw lessons from other conflicts. But we also have a good eight years now of moderate successes and stupendous failures in Afghanistan itself as well. Before we beging advocating the good idea fairy about tribes, we have to understand the history of those tribal efforts first.

And again: there is universal academic and policy consensus that previous efforts to engage tribes has failed. The only people advocating it seem to be the ones who either experienced unique and unrepeatable success (however dubious, as in the case of Jim Gant), or who complain no one has ever studied this when they really have.

I don't know about anyone else, but even in this space we've been hashing this out for YEARS, yet still these papers continue to plead ignorance even while insisting their ideas must be right. It's baffling.

Ian (not verified)

Thu, 03/04/2010 - 4:15pm

kdog said "I thought it was the Soviets who were trying to control the region, and it was the United States that was actually promoting the fight against Soviet control"

Nope, our support for the mujahidin in the 1980s was ENTIRELY non-tribal--we funneled our resources to them through the ISI, whose government in Pakistan had set up 7 parties--not tribes, parties that cut across tribal and even ethnic lines. That approach was very successful.

The Soviets tried to counter this by empowering "the tribes," which failed, as we all know well.

Chicken Little (not verified)

Fri, 03/05/2010 - 6:17am

"Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion -- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat, if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven."

I challenge you to see the world as a devoted Muslim Pashtun. The western filter overlooks the importance of social hierarchical orders amongst people; namely self, family, tribe (community), religion. National identity is questionable at best for a Pashtun otherwise we would call him an Afghan not a Pashtun. There is an unquestionable unifying identity between all Pashtuns besides tribal affiliation. All are Muslims.

"Wala wa Bara; Perhaps best translated as "loyalty and enmity," this doctrine requires Muslims to maintain absolute loyalty to Islam and one another, while disavowing, even hating (e.g., Koran 60:4), all things un-Islamic -- including persons (a.k.a. "infidels"). This theme has ample support in the Koran, hadith, and rulings of the ulema, that is, usul al-fiqh (roots of Muslim jurisprudence). (The Al-Qaida Reader, p. 63-115)"
Raymond Ibrahim (Nidal Hasan and Fort Hood: A Study in Muslim Doctrine)

Our culture avoids religious definition and most certainly is not Muslim. We can empower the Tribes as much as we want but it comes down to the fact that NATO is not Muslim therefore the Taliban will always have an advantage in dealing with the Afghan local population. The best policy makers and military leaders can hope for is that personal relationships and temporary alliances can be utilized to accomplish the mission in order to allow the military to redeploy out of theater.
An alliance will only hold as long as there is a perceived threat to a Muslims life at which time it is his religious duty to deceive the "Zionist-Christian" alliance into cooperation as he attempts to avoid annihilation.

Take a hard look at Iraq today. Do you really think Iraq will be an ally to western countries in ten years?

Chicken Little

The sky never falls, but it will rain from time to time.

Well, the Afghan Government is about to approve the Local Defense Initiative which is essentially a locally-based security program some of which will be based on tribal affiliation and some of it on geographic location. The numbers of people per village will be small and they will be partnered with the local police who will mostly be mentored by NATO mentors. By the way, the statements in these tribal sections are just tiresome. Yes, some Afghans identify more strongly with tribes than others and yes, some don't at all. And yes, tribal affiliation is a fact that we have to contend with and no we don't have to be completely captured by it. Once you set aside so many of these theoretical absolutes you can finally see how people actually live over here and deal with them as they are.

Ian (not verified)

Fri, 03/05/2010 - 12:24pm

Dan, fair enough, but all I'm saying is, the Soviets already tried it, and Joshua is saying that NATO has already tried it (several times).

A good argument for the need to have continuity of knowledge, rather than fighting 8 one-year-long wars.

kdog101 (not verified)

Fri, 03/05/2010 - 2:40pm

Joshua Foust and Ian,
I mischaracterized your comments. I have no particular inclination to a do a tribal approach. I have an inclination to work with the local community and existing Afghan groups as they are. I agree with the paper's bottom up approach, versus one that works with a central government. My comments were directed with that concept in mind, and not the tribal concept itself.

Vito (not verified)

Fri, 03/05/2010 - 4:08pm

I also have to agree with a bottom-up approach, be it tribal or any other form that suits each valley, each tribe, each ethnic group, each political entity, each...

Starting to sound like U.S. government and private sector diversity training here.

Foust, as smart as he is (and he will be the first to tell you that and how stupid and clueless those who do not bow to his greatness and agree in total submission to his all-knowing, all encompassing "slam dunk" analysis of affairs) offers little in a long term way ahead. No real solutions, just mean-spirited commentary, arrogance and a condescending attitude towards anyone, regardless of time on the ground or expertise garnered though research or first-hand experience.

Joshua is not as smart as he might like to believe he is. He is also not as clueless as others would like to believe he is. He is also someone who should not be taken lightly as his analysis does contain much that should be heeded. He really does have to work on his presentation and people skills. Enough said...

Ian (not verified)

Fri, 03/05/2010 - 4:42pm

kdog101, I am with you part of the way. The problem is, the tribal advocates think local=tribal where brown people are concerned. Not so. And while understanding local issues is crucial, playing at tribal politics (which is what tribal "engagement" amounts to) is a game that NATO/ISAF is gonna lose. The balance between the center and the local has to be worked out by Afghans, not tilted by briefcases of cash for self-declared tribal elders.


Sat, 03/06/2010 - 12:22pm

Very good, to the point article.

The more I read, the more I get asked questions, the more I study this tribal engagement issue in Afghanistan and as I prepare to go back there, the more I am convinced that "tribal engagement" is absolutely critical to our success there. Not "tribal involvement", but "tribal engagment".

Once again, if I am a Pashtun tribesman, I bet my life and the lives of my family on my tribe. No one else. And I think that we can all agree that without those Pashtun tribesman on our side, no matter what else we do, in the end, we will fail.


Jim Gant

Ian (not verified)

Sat, 03/06/2010 - 12:52pm

"if I am a Pashtun tribesman, I bet my life and the lives of my family on my tribe."

Jim, I'm afraid there's no evidence to support that claim. On the contrary, there are families--not even larger tribes, but nuclear families--that have brothers and cousins in both the ANA and in the Taliban. After all, Karzai and Mullah Baradar are both Popalzais. I know you have "boots-on-the-ground" experience, but so do a lot of other people with training in understanding how societies work and fluency in local languages.

Outlaw7 (not verified)

Sat, 03/06/2010 - 1:28pm

I keep seeing the term Human Terrain System over and over and over in repeated blog comments.

Can anyone point me to a single MAJOR success storyboard ie in this particular area they worked in X number of Taliban were killed or captured, X number of IED cells were eliminated, X number of local tribal security teams were set up and are still functioning.

HTS is nothing more than social studies IPB which I believe was already done many years ago in Area Studies done for the CIA/SF by DOS and FAOs. But since we have limited to very few FAOs left someone had to pick up the slack, but the ROI of the current HTS is a massive loss---1.5K per day instructors, GS15 to 300K salaries for field operators and what has the return been?

MAJ Gant has to a degree contributed more to the open discussion of the tribes and he is a MAJ not a GS15 and he is certainly not getting a 300K salary for his observations. Who cares how much territory tribes cover let's have tribal security teams where we can get them and then watch the Taliban try to manuever in those areas--but the major problem right now is that we are not restricting the movement of the Taliban anywhere---actually this was a lesson learned in Iraq---restrict cell movements making it hard to manuever and you gain time and space.

So kill the program, get military intelligence back to the basics generating field quality IPB that can be used by all organizations in a total sharing fashion. This I think was the reason for the recent J2's critique of the MI failures and which ties nicely into MAJ Gant's observations.

Ian (not verified)

Sat, 03/06/2010 - 1:35pm

I had to search the page for a mention of HTS. I think the reason Joshua brought it up was because they published a paper on this topic, using data from the field and the corpus of anthropological scholarship on Afghanistan.

I hope you are not saying that all critics of the "tribe-and-only-tribe" approach are all earning 300k a year. I certainly do not earn that--I am someone who has nothing at stake in this debate except my desire for America not to lose because of an attachment to an idea. An idea, by the way, that has been tried before with no success.

Shut down HTS for all I care, but please, the "tribe-and-only-tribe" idea is a figment of one man's imagination.

The HTS is doing something needed way too much in Afghanistan from my experience there. I am not saying that it is being done the most effective or efficient way but Outlaw7 states that the HTS is only doing a social study IPB that was already done by the CIA long ago... those are the exact area studies that told us in pre-deployment training that Kapisa province was Ghilzai Pashtun. That would explain why there was a growing insurgency in that province. One would believe that these insurgents had tribal ties to the heart of the insurgency. But when we hit the ground we quickly found out the they were Safi Pashtun. That was a game changer... now we were not dealing with cousins of Mullah Omar but instead a group of "Mountain Men" who just wanted peace and prosperity... joining who ever could provide this the easiest.

As for the main topic of this article... I must have been in one of those "few" places out east in which this would have worked. No matter what school of COIN you use you have to have security in the village at all times. Whether that is a couple guys with AKs and cell phones, with ANA/ANP outpost near by to serve as QRF in the event the TB enters the village, or overwhelming coalition/ANSF presence. But it is much more feasible to have the few men. That would even use an insurgent tactic against them, a la EWN. Without this lasting presence in these villages we will never be able to hold this terrain... and that is a very important part of the whole strategy.

Just my 2 cents,

Jason Walters (not verified)

Sun, 03/07/2010 - 9:12am

Sorry to burst your Russian bubble but what they attempted had the theme of communism behind it. Their program was designed to CHANGE tribal regulation to that in support of a communist government. ISAF, to include the US, is not wanting to change the tribal ways of management, the idea is to support what has been there since the 1920's, implimented by an Afghan King. It worked up to the time the Russians came along and destroy it with their "programs" followed up by the Taliban. The bottom up approach is necessary and will work but specifics will not be discussed here. You will have to join the gang that is responsible for the development, resourcing and maintaining it before you know it all. There are multiple approaches to success in Afghanistan that will require top down and bottom up approaches. The research has been done, it is time to implement and continue to evolve. I stand with Jim Gant and the rest of the dedicated soldiers that are eager to give this responsibility of security back to the land owners.


Guess you made it in country. How about an ANGUS and a SITREP for us? Glad we have Small Wars Journal so we can know you arrived alive and that we know you priorities are straight!!! :-) Be safe.

Ian (not verified)

Tue, 03/09/2010 - 12:03pm

Jason, I will happily cede the floor to you in the "more patriotic than thou department," consider me vanquished. I had time to join that gang and quit it, and I definitely do not know it all.

But. You are wrong. The Russians tried the very "bottom-up" approach that you are now advocating. They gave up on the whole "uprising of non-existent Afghan workers" theme very, very quickly--quicker than we seem to be giving up on the "rule of law for every Afghan peasant" them.

Again, it's like 5 pages in Giustozzi's new warlord book, chapter 3 I think--check it out.


Tue, 03/09/2010 - 7:16pm


Is there any way we can compare what the Soviets were trying to accomplish (endstate) and what we are trying to accomplish (endstate) in Afghanistan?

I can't understand how any particular TTP whether successful or not can be compared when viewed through the lens of overall strategy of the forces using those TTPs.

The Soviets were brutal in Afghanistan. I would argue that a high percentage, but of course not all, of "Afghans" would not see the Soviets and us the same.

I would however, agree that in some areas, we are definately seen as "occupiers" but even in those areas our intentions and actions are clearly different. And the Pashtun tribesman gets that. I had a very personal experience with the tribe I was with and the stories they told me about fighting the Soviets.

I also need to point out that one of the most interesting articles I have read about "tribal engagement" was called "Follow the Bear" (Soviet Lessons in Afghanistan). There was a part in there about a Captain Zakharov and the success he had engaging the tribes.

Lastly, I have a little saying..."Hard is not hopeless but history may be..." The history of any particular strategy or TTP has to be taken into account because it has either been successful or it has not based on many different variables. However, if that is the case, the "Afghans" have never been "defeated" and every single one of our assumptions are wrong. If that is indeed the case, then no matter what we do, we will fail.

I happen to believe that we can be successful, in some degree, but that it won't happen without the support of a vast majority of the Pashtun tribes.

Just out of personal interest, as I don't blog much anymore and very soon will stop completely, do you advocate a strong central Afghan government supported by a professional army and national police?

Take care Ian and I read your posts with interest and an open mind.




Tue, 03/09/2010 - 7:41pm


Roger that...




Ian (not verified)

Wed, 03/10/2010 - 8:36am


Thank you for your comments and questions. The similarities I see between the Soviet and American efforts are not about the degree of brutality--clearly, Soviet commanders never came to the point that ours now have, nine years on, that air strikes and door-kicking have an adverse effect. Rather, I see the similarities in the desire to engineer the society of Afghanistan according to an image we have in our minds. Communism, Rule of Law, Organic Tribes--all these are images that various armed/wealthy powers seek to engineer there.

Just as you say that TTP and strategy have to be viewed together, I have a hard time calling anything the Soviets did a success in light of their eventual withdrawal and the spiral of Afghanistan into a devastating civil war.

On your question about strong govt, police, army--I would say that those things might be possible, but if we premise "success" on having those things, we will not be successful.

What I do advocate is that US warfighters avoid trying to engineer politics in our interests. There are many places in Afghanistan where our battle against insurgents in unnecessary. It will be a tough pill to swallow, but at some point in the future (whether we like it or not), those "Taliban shadow governments" we are all so afraid of will be the real governments in many localities, and why shouldn't they be. They provide basic justice services that locals can buy into. As long as these local "Taliban" governments don't aim at the U.S. homeland or let Bin Laden hide in town, we shouldn't be aiming at them. There are plenty of countries whose system of government is hardly different from the Taliban's idea--Saudi Arabia is our best regional friend. (Oh, and also the Taliban's best friend.)

The goal should be to let locals choose the system they want, and let the "central government," in whatever form, exist for the purposes of collecting outside aid and distributing it. Putting Americans with guns, or TEBCs (Tribal Engagement Briefcases of Cash) into the mix tilts the balance of what locals might choose otherwise, and it makes the engagement into a competition for the Americans' attention.


Wed, 03/10/2010 - 8:59am


Thanks for your response...I see what you are saying much more clearly now...amazing, huh? I do understand what your concerns are and not only respect them, but have the same ones you do. I am probably closer to you and your opinions than you think.

I will continue to monitor these pages and will add you to the list "need to listen to that guy" people...I would at some point maybe like to ask you some questions "off-line" so we can speak more freely.

I will be right in the middle of this soon and would appreciate your perspective on some things.

You will help me identify some shortcomings and pitfalls that are clearly out there. I hope you know I am sincere in those words.

Take care and thanks again.